Geopolitical analysis for Bengalis — Part 2
In the last post I’ve briefly dealt with some of the geopolitical realities of China, India and US and the various economic linkage plans that are being proposed by the rival powers.
At this point it is instructive to define the term state. In a practical sense, nothing withstanding the overt political arrangement in a country, power is held in all major countries by a small clique of elites. All the three players, whom we analyze here, are led by a small clique of big business houses. Policies are drafted to benefit this small set of elite. So the US has an elite composed of the oil, finance, and military industrial complex who control the various wings of government. In China, the 2nd and 3rd generation offspring of the top original Communist leaders control both big business and the Chinese Communist party and are its elite. India’s elite is older than India itself if we assume that India was born in 1947. Big businessmen, mainly Gujarati and Marwari, formed the Bombay Club, an informal pressure group, funded the then Indian National Congress and post independence reaped the benefits accorded to them through a License Permit Raj. The Indian polity of a Union of States, rather than a federation of states, was also conceived under pressure from this elite. While some members may have faded out and others may have been added, in essence Indian policies have reflected the business needs of these elites irrespective of the Government in power.
The Indian elites faced competition for the first time in 1991 when the economy was liberalized. While initially shocked it appears than they have recovered their stranglehold on the economy and the election of the BJP government in 2014 seems to show that this elite is now firmly in control of the fortunes of this country.
The current political situation is such that the new Republican administration hasn’t as yet found its foot and things are in a flux in Washington DC. China is politically stable.
India’s relations with Pakistan are uniformly low and have been so for a while. India’s elites thought of obtaining Iranian gas through the Iranian port of Chabahar and then via pipeline to Western India. However given the vicissitudes of Iran’s external relations, especially with the US, Indian plans are risky. In addition, even from an economic point of view, the Indian Iranian plan is less viable than the Chinese Pakistani CPEC plan from the port of Gwadar, which is less than 100 kilometres from Chabahar.
While Indian elites would love to get onto the CPEC bandwagon, due to historical animosity between India and Pakistan, and the fact that the CPEC pipeline passes through Gilgit Baltistan, India views the plan as violating its sovereignty. Nothing withstanding the fanning of anti minority feelings in largely Hindu India by the ruling BJP, Indian business elites are quite comfortable doing business with Muslim elites. One needn’t look further than Modi’s embrace of Gulf Sheikhs and visits/wishes to Nawaz Sharif all of which are driven by India’s business elites. However as a country India has to grin and bear it while the China Pakistan duo move forward on CPEC.
Question now arises as to what happens if either CPEC, Iran India gas pipeline or TAPI were to ever come to fruition for India. From a geopolitical point of view since the North and West of the country are geographically close to the sources of the trade routes/pipelines the North and West of India would develop faster as both primary and secondary industries based on these raw materials would be concentrated in that region. This benefits the existing business elites. It is also not out of place to mention that the entire North and West of India are under the control of the BJP political party. However as of now, pending a miracle, participation, atleast at a meaningful scale, is hard to come by for the elites in CPEC. In addition since 2014 Indian foreign policy has made a hard pivot towards the US and the US would be loath to see India and Indian elites making a Chinese plan succeed.
The other connecting land route from China to India is the proposed BCIM corrider. As described earlier it a route from Kumning to Kolkata via Mandalay, Imphal, Silchar, Sylhet, Dhaka, and Jessore. Kumning is closer to the industrial heartland of Southern China and Chinese goods therefore have a much shorter route from their place of production to India.
What does this proposed plan mean for Indian business elites? For one the BJP party, that is the political vehicle of choice for these elites, is not very strong in the regions of the proposed land route. Political control of the route is essential to maintaining business advantages. This is one of the reasons why the BJP has made a concerted effort to obtain political control of the various states in the North East. Thus BJP today has governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland in the Norh East. It is trying to obtain political control of Tripura, Meghalaya and perhaps Mizoram also.
In Bangladesh, the present government is critically dependent on Indian state support, to ward of political, military and Islamic challenges to its legitimacy and parts of its economy have been turned over to the existing business elites of India as part of a quid pro quo.
In West Bengal, the Indian business elites are making full fledged efforts to dislodge the ruling regional party from government, through a variety of means.
Further down, the business elites seek to control the entire route from East India to South India and are plotting a regime change in the state of Orissa. The Indian elites are mortally afraid that if a business link were to be possible from China to South India, their wealth would take a dip as due to ethnic considerations they wouldn’t get business advantage. Thus Delhi, which the current elite control, would lose a lot of power. Hence the elites and the BJP’s angst in trying to usurp political control of these states.
The question now is who benefits from this? India is now moving towards being a Hindu theocracy. Whom does it benefit economically? Is Hindu theocracy a means for the existing business elite to perpetuate their control over the economic polity of the nation? Are there any other actors in this process? What are their motivations? What about Bangladesh? Can Bangladesh maintain its independent political existence? Will Mujib’s daughter lose the independence of Bangladesh that her father obtained? The shrill noises of BJP’s Akhand Bharat concept segue nicely into the Indian business elite’s wish to control the entire subcontinent.